WICHITA, Kan. – A panel of experts in food safety, microbiology and epidemiology has been asked by Cargill to review the company's enhanced ground turkey food-safety program following its Aug. 3 voluntary recall of 36 million lbs. of ground turkey. After learning that the US Centers for Disease Control had detected an outbreak ofSalmonella-related illnesses, Cargill initiated the recall.

“We are leaving no stone unturned,” said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey processing business. “While we have already taken significant steps to enhance our food safety program at our Springdale, Ark., turkey processing facility, and those measures have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture, we believe a panel of independent experts will be able to help us assess and validate the measures we’ve put in place while also providing us with valued external perspectives and recommendations for additional steps we could take. We have asked the panel to look at the entire process from live animal operations through ground turkey production.”

Dr. Michael Doyle, professor of food microbiology at the Univ. of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety; Barbara Masters DVM, who is senior policy advisor at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, as well as former administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service; and Craig W Hedberg, Ph.D., professor in the Univ. of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, specializing in epidemiology, are members of the panel.

At Cargill’s Springdale federally inspected poultry processing facility, USDA inspectors are present every minute the plant is operating. Since the recall, Cargill has instituted several enhancements to its food-safety program. These include two additional antibacterial washes, intensifying an existing antibacterial system, disassembling and steam-cleaning equipment before resuming ground turkey production and requiring suppliers of turkey meat to add a new antibacterial wash.

The company said it has also implemented the most aggressiveSalmonellamonitoring and testing program in the poultry industry.

“We will share best practices emerging from our food-safety efforts with other turkey processing facilities,” Willardsen said. “Effectively dealing with randomly and naturally occurring bacteria is a collective challenge for the industry and its supply chain, as well as for regulators, yet we will never relax our pursuit of better ways to improve food safety and reduce the potential for foodborne illness. People expect safe food, and our goal is to provide it each serving, every time.”